George W. Bush is the first president of the United States to hold an MBA. This has helped him early in his presidency then hurt him later. His top-down management approach was successful along with the style of secrecy and speed resulted in great strides for his presidency. Unfortunately this approach resulted in some failure and jeopardized his legacy. President Bush was said to be a visionary along with having a very loyal team. His advisory team was small and his decision making process involved this small team of very loyal pundits. This small team and short crisp meetings resulted in a smaller number of alternatives. This top down approach paralleled with speed and secrecy are all qualities of business management especially those public officials that are afraid of leaks, shared power and bureaucracy. His detractors elaborated that this quick approach to decision making did not allow a regularized development process.
President Bush’s defining feature of his strength was his ‘people’ skills. He was a master of motivating, rallying and energizing others. He was unlike President Reagan who was a true visionary because of his ability to “encompass consistency of viewpoint” (Getting inside the Bush Mind, 2000). Members of his team or his peripheral members falter his ability to attend to details. They attribute this to boredom and his daily routine tasks. His recognition of this offered these tasks to be delegated to his choice for Vice President, Cheney. He was a champion at organization skills.
While his intelligence is often challenged, it has to be recognized that his SAT score of 1206 is comparable to John F Kennedy. Unfortunately there is little indication of his quest for other knowledge, i.e., history, philosophy or more importantly his absorption of mundane daily briefings or background reports.
So how do I define George W Bush’s leadership style? I have to place his style between Situational and Leader Member Exchange theories. Let’s start with the Situational Approach and how we can apply this to President Bush’s leadership style. In the High Directive High Supportive model (S2), he clearly exhibits this style in so much that he manages top-down approach. His quick to decide method and small circle of advisors spawns this type of style. It’s also important to point out that S2 focuses on achieving goals and meeting subordinates’ sociomotivational needs (Northouse, 91). However, it is an extension S1, S2 does require the leader to make the final decision on what and how of the goal accomplishment.
Let’s now see how the Leader-Member Exchange Theory is part of President Bush’s leader ship style. In a previous observation it was noted that he had a small circle of advisors, no doubt, all presidents are surrounded by administrators, cabinet members and advisors. It’s clear in my research that he always surrounded himself with a small number of, what can only be classified as, a close knit in-group of decision makers. “Working with in in-group allows a leader to accomplish more work in a more effective manner than he or she can accomplish working with out one” (Northouse,154).
Why did President Bush decide to invade Iraq? The facts are still under scrutiny but basically it was the results of CIA analysis that Saddam Hussien was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. It was also a conclusion of the CIA that he could not be removed from power except for a war. President Bush had secret meetings about this to avoid international angst and domestic speculation (Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11, 2004). Early in 2003 President Bush had made up his mind about taking military action against Iraq. To enforce the LMX Model his close relationship with Cheney and a closed group made a significant influence on this decision. Cheney won a bitter battle with Colin Powell in deciding to invade Iraq.
The effectiveness of the decision is debatable today and will continue to be for some time. Of course there were not weapons of mass destruction found but in the defense of Bush’s decision, Saddam did use these types of weapons within his on country on his own people. So was the decision effective? The fall of Saddam’s regime was in many people’s mind a blessing. He was a cruel leader and according to Bush’s advisors, he was an imminent threat to the world’s safety.
What would’ve been the outcome if we didn’t invade Iraq? We certainly would not be responsible for rebuilding a country and spending billions of dollars. We also can’t put a price on lives lost particularly to the military.
If a different leadership style were implemented, would there have been a different decision made? I tried to apply transformational and authentic leadership type to Bush’s type and since both are highly dependant on morality, these do not fit. His high Christian values dictate that the decision would’ve been the same. He was convinced that this decision was the right thing to do. The Skills approach, if it was used in this instance might have had a different result. So let’s assume the Three Skills approach was applied here: Conceptual, Technical and Human. It was previously observed that Bush had strong Human skills so that can be applied in this situation. Conceptual skill is by far the outlier here. “Conceptual skills are central to creating a vision and strategic plan for an organization” (Northouse, 42). If this skill were evident and applied in this decision would we have invaded Iraq? I’m not so sure. Would a visionary have seen the outcome path of this decision years in advance? In addition, if the LMX were not used, the chances of a small, tight group of advisors might not have existed. The decision to invade Iraq might not have happened. There are those who have opposed the invasion and the rebuilding of Iraq and there are those who think it was the right decision. We certainly will never really know.
Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11 (2004) Retrieved July 26th 2011 from
Getting Inside the Bush Mind (2000) Retrieved July 20th, 2011 from
Leadership in the Bush House (2003) Retrieved July 27th from
Northouse, Peter. Leadership Sage2010. Print
The First MBA President (2007) Retrieved July 24th 2011 from
Top Down Management (2011) Retrieved July 23rd 2011 from